• Yehudi Wyner
  • Partita (1954)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • piano
  • 15 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

In 1951 I interrupted my studies with Hindemith at Yale and came to Harvard to spend one year in the graduate program. My principal teachers were Allen Sapp, Archibald Davison, Randall Thompson and Walter Piston. The course work, especially in counterpoint and in medieval notation was rigorous and rewarding. A survey of the operas and oratorios of Handel, taught by Thompson, proved to be a powerful eye and ear opener. With Piston, the spring was devoted to the composition of the Partita for piano which reflected at every turn the influence of the music I was studying. Obviously I was drawn to the bold, telegraphic, theatrical stance of Handel (as opposed to the dense, systematic, exhaustive processes of Bach); the modal counterpoint and cadential formulas of the middle ages, the keyboard style of William Byrd. But the decisive influence which guided my thinking was the neoclassic esthetic of Stravinsky with which I had a growing involvement.

To the private sessions I had with Piston I brought completed movements of the Partita as they were composed, and played them for him. There was no criticism, no discussion of the techniques of the works, about the "ideology” of neoclassicism. Piston simply and quietly approved, no questions asked. While I was pleased, I was also puzzled. What kind of teaching was this, I wondered. Was the lack of intervention a sign of indifference, of passive acquiescence, a sign that Piston did not want to get involved in matters outside his own creative preoccupations? Years later (on the basis of my own teaching experience) I came to the conclusion that Piston had sensed that I knew exactly what I wanted to do at that moment. What I needed was support, not criticism, and his approval helped me develop a sense of confidence and fluency.

I played the entire Partita at a concert at Paine Hall at the end of the Spring Semester 1952 (or was it during the Summer Session? I cannot recall).

When I returned to Yale in the Fall, I showed Hindemith the work I had been doing during the previous year. He was furious. He hated the outer trappings of "referential" neo-classicism (paradoxically, he loved Oedipus Rex), and realized at once that Stravinsky had gained the upper hand in my musical thinking. He tried tinkering with details of the Overture, fussed and fumed, revised and erased, finally threw the pencil down in high irritation and commanded me to get started on something new.

— Yehudi Wyner


I. Overture - Grave